TRAVELS WITH MY AUNT
When I first saw my mother's brother's new wife,
What I saw were two shopping bags,
Laden with food, which her arms cradled around.
She was coming up the path to the big house.
All summer long, I spent the afternoons
Reading G.A. Henty adventures for boys in the bungalow.
When we had lunch on the veranda, her bikini top
Dipped down like the sunglasses along her nose.
I was just learning to put two and two together.
She wouldn't talk to me or my brothers.
I would lie on my belly, dig my hips into the mattress
And, more likely than not, be crossing the Khyber Pass
Or holding a fort set on some promontory.
She was doing her best to remain collected, and calm,
Under the surveillance of the assembled relatives.
Her lips winced at the taste of our coffee.
The plot leaped forward: I was drifting headlong
Down a river, towards the Whirlpool of No Return.
After her swims, she lay sunbathing on the dock
And a drop of water glistened in her belly-button.
We came to clearing. The Hun had retreated
To a temple full of incense and treasures.
An attack would be lunacy but we had no choice—
There was an English life at stake. I discarded the map
And, by examining the underside of a leaf,
Plotted the best approach. Through the window, I saw her
Meting out a laundry line of underclothes and linen.
The bungalow smelled of yellow pages and cedar.
A woodpecker tack-tack-tacked against a hollow tree.
A spider crawled up the screen. I got the message:
They had taken the General's daughter captive
And I, I was the man to free her.
From Shadow Cabinet (1996) by Richard Sanger.